Sir: Following recent reports on shark finning (31 August), I would like to make clear I deplore this practice and strongly welcomed EU measures to stop the practice of slicing off fins at sea and discarding the rest of the body, which enables fishing vessels to slaughter large numbers of sharks on the open ocean.
It is deeply unfortunate this barbaric practice is not met with the same kind of global revulsion as, for example, whaling, partly due to the shark's predatory image. This must be addressed as sharks play a vital role in our marine ecosystem.
Regrettably, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted to relax the rules on shark finning this week. However, the plenary vote has yet to be held and as Labour's European Fisheries spokesperson I am recommending support for all those amendments that restrain this brutal and unnecessary practice and will vote against the report should these amendments fall. I urge other MEP colleagues to do likewise.
CATHERINE STIHLER MEP
Sir: Once again Spanish politicians are putting the profits of their fishermen ahead of marine conservation efforts. Around a third of European species are under threat from excessive finning. Unfortunately, films like Jaws have created a stigma surrounding sharks that often prevents them gaining the attention they deserve. They are a vital component of maintaining a balanced ecosystem in our oceans.
The current rules that are intended to protect shark species are wholly inadequate and can easily be evaded. Unfortunately, rather than tightening them, Spanish MEPs are engaged in an effort to relax the rules so that more shark carcasses can be thrown back after their fins are removed. British Conservative MEPs will be tabling amendments to oppose any relaxation to the regulations and we urge the British Government to oppose them too.
We will be urging the EU to adopt the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) system in the shark fishery. This would allow fishermen to remove the highest quantity of sharks without weakening the reproductive potential of the species being fished. The EU signed up to MSY at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and it is high time we applied this system to the shark fishery.
STRUAN STEVENSON MEP
CONSERVATIVE FISHERIES SPOKESMAN NEIL PARISH MEP CONSERVATIVE DEPUTY FISHERIES SPOKESMAN EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BRUSSELS
Mail may be junk, but at least it's free
Sir: Why does the majority of the population share the notion that it's OK to have something you've paid for to be full of advertising, but that advertising that's delivered to your door for free (along with addressed direct mail) is not ("The junk mountain", 2 September)? By media manipulation, of course.
The public seems oblivious to the fact that postal-delivered mail is the only form of mass communication that is free at the point of delivery: TV, email and the internet are far from free, all requiring a licence, subscription or line-rental fee. And the press has the audacity to charge its readers for something which is essentially a vehicle for mass marketing, the profit derived thereof being the motive for publication.
It's hardly surprising that the print media has united its forces in support of postman Roger Annies. With Royal Mail about to lift restrictions on "door-to- door" deliveries, yet more advertising revenue will disappear from pages of the press, something that the internet will no doubt remove completely within the next 10 years, along with newspapers themselves.
Sir: Much of my junk mail came from businesses that I had a relationship with. This unwanted material arrived even though I am registered with the Mailing Preference Service. The remedy was to write to these businesses saying no marketing mail should be sent and this has been very successful. I do, however, receive occasional letters from these businesses informing me that I am missing valuable information and pleading with me to opt in. Fat chance!
Sir: The majority of us would rather do without junk mail, and the information regarding how to reduce or stop it was useful. While waiting for the flow to stop, try a little retaliation. Let's say you have two items of junk mail: take the junk from company A and put it in the (usually pre-paid) envelope of company B, and vice versa. You can stuff the envelope with old bus or train tickets, advertising circulars and all the other detritus which gathers daily. When you post it, it will brighten your day. This exercise is done on the understanding that if they send you their rubbish, you can send them yours.
Sir: All junk mail delivered to my home is put into the nearest Royal Mail post box, even if it is flyers. Where an address source is shown on the envelope I ask for the item to be returned to sender.
COWES ISLE OF WIGHT
Sir: Perhaps the Mailing Preference Service ought to enable me to opt in to the Royal Mail's mail-shot services, rather than my having to opt out? I also wonder why the Royal Mail thinks it has the right to deposit unaddressed mail shots, ie, litter, on my hall carpet, and whether I have any legal redress for this?
Sir: Well, thanks for the information on how to stop the Royal Mail delivering unaddressed material, but the door-to-door opt out is an interesting money-making scheme for our beloved postal service. Email them and ask them to stop as the web page tells you to, and they email you back with a form to print out and post back to them!
Sir: Re the junk mountain featured on the front of 2 September's Independent: perhaps the glossy enclosures that fell out of the same paper would provide a cairn on top of the mountain.
GM crops are not being grown here
Sir: Your leading article (25 August) suggested that, despite a Defra consultation, GM crops were being grown in the UK. This is emphatically wrong. To operate even a trial in the UK, Defra's permission is required. At present, no farm-scale trials are being conducted, and no commercial crops are being grown whatsoever.
As President of the NFU, my customers are my number one priority, and until there is an appetite for GM foods then they are not an option. But we do need to have an open and informed debate on the use of this technology, which when used properly could offer very real benefits to society. The world already produces medicines through GM techniques. GM could also mean renewable energy crops can be grown without fertiliser and drought resistance could be placed into crops, potentially helping us to tackle climate change.
NATIONAL FARMERS' UNION STONELEIGH, WARWICKSHIRE
Aid to poor nations: keep free market out
Sir: The UK's Department for International Development rightly says that specific policies should not be imposed on poor countries in return for aid (report, 1 September). DFID also claims the World Bank and IMF are committed to ensuring that policy conditions are drawn from the national development strategies of poor countries. What they don't say is that the Bank and Fund have a massive influence over the content of these strategies.
World Development Movement research looking at 50 of these plans has shown that they are still packed with the same failed free-market policies advocated by the IMF and World Bank for the past 20 years. Almost three quarters contained yet more market opening, two thirds contained stripping away regulation of multinational investors, 90 per cent committed to more privatisation and 96 per cent contained tight curbs on government spending (something towards which Gordon Brown likes to have a more flexible attitude).
There is simply no good reason to use aid as a lever to force countries to implement economic policies - whether these are in a national strategy or not. The claims of the UK government, the World Bank and the IMF to be pursuing democracy and good governance will always ring hollow while this travesty continues.
WORLD DEVELOPMENT MOVEMENT LONDON SW9
Technology offers hope on emissions
Sir: On 2 September you published two letters which contributed to the impression that little can be done about reducing CO 2 emissions from the use of coal for power generation.
Despite what Dr Nicholson says, underground storage of CO 2 is technically feasible and indeed has been used by the Norwegian company, Statoil, to avoid emission of 1m tonnes of CO 2 per year for the past 10 years. This was the first such installation of its kind. There are now serious plans in Germany, the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK to replicate this on a larger scale, by storing CO 2 in partly depleted oil fields, gas fields and deep salt-water aquifers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a report which recognised the potential of this technique to contribute to avoiding climate change.
Francis Frampton suggested a target of 42 per cent for thermal efficiency. He may be pleased to know that this was surpassed some years ago in Denmark. The Esbjerg Unit 3 ultra-supercritical power plant burning coal has an efficiency of 45 per cent. Even higher thermal efficiencies are now in prospect as a result of the European AD700 research and development project.
There is substantial potential for harnessing modern technology to make substantial reductions in CO 2 emissions from coal- and gas- fired power generation at a cost which is much less than replacing this generation by wind power or most other forms of renewable energy.
London commuters are the lucky ones
Sir: The people who have expressed outrage that London was voted best for public transport (report, 31 August) have clearly never visited North American cities.
I often spend holidays in London and I never fail to be impressed by the ease with which I can traverse the city - whether by bus, suburban trains or Tube. In comparison, I live only an hour or so from Toronto but when visiting that city, am virtually confined to the centre unless I bring my car. Travelling outside the centre is a nightmare and statistics show that very few residents of Toronto's suburbs use public transit. I'm afraid nearly every North American province or state long ago abandoned the principle of public transit in favour of the car.
So to Londoners I would say: appreciate what you have. Of course, there are occasional problems, of course there are times when things don't work. But it's there and it's remarkably efficient in moving millions of people every day.
STRATFORD, ONTARIO CANADA
Joan Littlewood's death
Sir: In his article about Lionel Bart (Extra, 31 August), Michael Coveney writes that Joan Littlewood died in France. I would like to correct this. She died in London at my flat, where she had been living on and off for 23 years. At the time, I was sitting talking to her, which prompted an old friend to say: "In which case, you must have been very boring."
New Zealand's birds
Sir: Your report regarding 16 threatened bird species is good news indeed (28 August). I would point out that both Black Stilt and Chatham Island Taiko are under New Zealand jurisdiction, not just the former species as your map suggests. This positive result is through decades of hard graft with limited finances by the NZ Department of Conservation and the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, amongst others, to counter much damage; such a glimmer of hope can continue only through proper funding.
(MEMBER OF THE ROYAL FOREST & BIRD PROTECTION SOCIETY) CHESHAM BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
Job losses at GNER
Sir: You report that the struggling rail company GNER has disposed of three senior managers and is likely to resort to widespread redundancies soon (1 September). What effect will such reductions in staffing levels have on the railway? Will the trains be less punctual, less clean or will there just be fewer of them? If GNER claims there will be no lowering of service standards then can they perhaps tell us what these three managers (and any future redundant staff) were paid to do in the first place?
COLIN MURISON SMALL
Named by degrees
Sir: Mr Holcombe's award of the MBE, as "Monsieur Holco MBE" (letter, 1 September) reminded me of how I was awarded a new surname. Having been blessed with three forenames I later gained the Cambridge medical degree abbreviated as "M B B Chir". Thereafter I began to receive unsolicited mail addressed to "Mr P M J B M B B Chir".
DR P M J BENNETT
To infinity, and beyond
Sir: I see that the Orion spacecraft will have, compared with Apollo, "infinitely superior electronics and computer technology" (report, 2 September). Infinitely? Really? There's nothing worse than using the word infinitely so loosely. Except, of course, that there is nothing worse than people using the phrase "nothing worse than" so loosely.
The glue of civilisation?
Sir: Colin Waugh believes that should Marmite be put in squeezy pots it would be the end of civilisation as we know it (letter, 2 September). Could I point out that the marketing of squeezy Marmite began earlier this year and that since then there has been an undeniable increase in world tension. Let us hope that the United Nations acts immediately, before it is too late.